chicago scenes

this past weekend the mister and i took an “end of summer” jaunt to chicago.  while the weather was far too hot and humid for my taste, we still managed to have a darn good time. i just had to take about a dozen naps because the heat wore me out so much. but then made up for it in the quantity of awesome food that was consumed. most notably, we were able to have one last meal at Hot Doug’s. they are closing permanently in october, which actually inspired the trip in the first place.

chicago in the summer time – you are not bad at all.

chicago1 coffeedrip




the mister and i decided to head to chicago for a long weekend in a couple weeks. we haven’t been in about three years and happen to love the city, so we’re definitely looking forward to getting reacquainted. not to mention – it’ll be the last time we’ll ever get to eat at Hot Doug’s! please leave any chicago suggestions you may have – we are always looking for new things to do and eat.

any time we book a trip – it immediately gets me thinking about going on more trips. or i start reminiscing about places we’ve already been. back in may we took a 10 day getaway to california. it was the mister’s first time in california EVER. i couldn’t believe. i had previously shared one of the photos from the trip, but here are a few more. looking at these again made me miss the west coast immensely. SIGH.

LACollage SFCollage

vacation food pt. II – Portland

i bet you’ve all been on pins and needles waiting to see the second half of my vacation food, right? i just knew it 😉 here it is!

pok pok – thai (and some vietnamese inspired) menu. it came highly recommended by the internet and many other people, but i did not love it. southeast asian flood is spicy and tart and sweet and so many flavors at once. i found almost none of those things in my food or in the bites i had of my friends’ food. i was told that portland has insanely good thai, but i don’t think pok pok falls under that category. and they didn’t have thai iced tea on the menu! what’s up with that?!

under that noodle blanket is hidden prawns and pork belly and a caramel sauce. this was my friend nathalie’s order and i think it may have been my favorite. it had the most punch of all the dishes.

broken crepe with mussels. you know how much i love the vietnamese version, bahn xeo, but this rendition did not even come close to comparing. where was the intoxicating smell of cooked coconut milk paired with its smooth subtle flavor?! i liked the fried egg addition though.

our friends jack and alex both work at lucca – an italian restaurant not too far from jack’s house where we were staying. the owners have a garden just for the restaurant and the menu is changed almost daily depending on what fresh ingredients they have. we really enjoyed our dinner and were there for happy hour beforehand so got to enjoy some great snacks and dessert. pictured above is the duck sugo which was, somehow, delightfully light despite being a pasta based dish. you can also see our sausage and arugula pizza in the background. pizza and pasta – carb overload!

brunch at cup and saucer on our last day in portland. i had the “world famous garden scramble” and LOVED it. i promptly made my own version at home and ate it for a week after we got back. so many good veggies! broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach and cheddar. AWESOME.

the mister had sour dough french toast. also really really good, i love the yeasty sourdough flavor combined with the sweetness of the powdered sugar and syrup – and look at that giant pile of french toast!

we hopped on a train back to seattle (flying out of seattle the next day) that late afternoon. we were putzy and ran late so didn’t have time to stop and pick up dinner to bring on the train. this is our extremely junky and terrible dinner from the bistro car. pepsi, cookies, a broccoli cheddar quiche (for me) and hidden under the chips is a bagel sandwich (for the mister). yikes.

vacation food pt. I – Seattle

earlier this month we went to portland for a wedding and decided to fly into seattle first so we could visit one of my st. olaf friends for a couple days and then take the amtrak down to portland (the mister had never been on a train before). although we only had 2 days we made the most of our eating!

brunch at Coastal Kitchen – i had a salmon scramble with spicy hashbrowns. you can see the mister’s huevos rancheros in the background with “dueling salsas.” the verde won, in case you were wondering. we loved the vibe of this place, fast and friendly service and the food was FRESH.

dinner at Olivar – which was splendid. the food was bright and so full of flavor. and everything we ordered was so well-put together and practically perfectly cooked. the restaurant itself is in a quaint english cottage style building and the decor is totally cozy. i would recommend this place to everyone in seattle. pictured above: sauteed gnocchi with braised rabbit ragu. the gnocchi was the exact taste and texture of the gnocchi at 112 – my favorite. (our first course was a trout potato salad & greens but it was eaten well before i remembered to take a picture).

braised rainbow chard with garlic, raisin and pine nuts – how summery looking is this dish, right?!

clams in a tomato chili broth

empanada filled with corn, artichoke, oyster mushroom and pine nuts – and a spicy aioli

paella valenciana (seafood, chicken and chorizo)

as much as we enjoyed the paella we later kicked ourselves for not ordering the Duo de Cerdo – grilled pork loin, braised pork shoulder lasagna with veggies. SIGH. oh well.

another brunch. this time at Table 219. shown right there is the table 219 benedict. poached eggs over potato cakes made with gouda and bacon and a tomato and mushroom cream sauce. OMG. go read the menu on the website and i dare you not to drool all over your computer.

we also had dinner at a super fabulous soul food placed, The Kingfish Cafe (which was conveniently located directly below my friend’s apartment), but were not seated by a window and it was dark dark dark with one tiny candle at our table – hence, no photos. but it was some serious soul food. catfish, collard greens, fried green tomatoes, hush puppies – heaven.

january in review

for once in the history of minnesota winters, january positively flew by. i’m guessing that partially had to do with the 6 days of it i spent in tropical paradise, though. that might have to become an annual tradtion because it made the worst winter month MUCH more bearable. so…to wrap it up:

the road – cormac mccarthy i was leary of this book because i had started blood meridian in december and although i liked the story, it was an incredibly detailed and oddly written sloooooow read (i still haven’t finished it). but i decided to take a break from blood meridian and move on to the road. i started and finished the same day. it’s incredibly dreary, but incredible beautiful at the same time – i mean, if you’re the type of person that can find beauty in a post apocolyptic word. mccarthy has at least 100 different ways to describe desolation.

blink – malcom gladwell i really enjoyed this book. i usually don’t read non-fiction, but i think gladwell is great. blink is about how people are able to make decisions without really thinking about it – following our instinct or listening to the snap judgement maker in our brain. really interesting, especially if you are really into “reading” people like i am.

dance dance dance – haruki murakami murakami is so hit or miss with me – japanese ficition can be SO weird. this one was no exception from the strangeness that tends to encompass his novels, but i was really intrigued by the story and by the lead characters cryptic dreaming. i liked this one better much better than kafka on the shore which was the last murakami book i read a couple of years ago.

love is a mix tape – rob sheffield this was a cute bubble-gummy type of read. and sad. rob writes about the mix tapes he and his wife made each other before she passed away suddenly and what the songs mean to them.

i failed miserably in the crafts department in january. i’m still whittling away on the scarf i started in october, however, the end is finally near and i am going to finish it by the end of this week. i’m not going to feel too bad though, considering the sheer amount of cooking and baking i did in january, i think some of that should carry over to the craft section of my resolutions. also, i have already made specific craft project plans for the upcoming month so i expect to be able to post some new things by mid-february.

my new recipe of the week for last week was inspired by street food i had in puerto rico (though, i did research and discovered they are originally from south america) – arepas con queso. fried corn cakes with creamy melted mozzarella in the middle. a nice little crunch on the outside and warm cheese on the inside. mmmm

(recipe adapted from one found in the food section of the NY Times)

1 C finely ground corn meal
1 C milk
2 T butter
1/2 t salt
1/2 C sweet corn kernels
4 oz mozzarella
2 T neutral cooking oil

*this recipe makes 4 3-4 inch cakes and i used about half a block of an 8oz block of cheese*

put corn meal and salt in a bowl
heat milk in a sauce pan until steam is rising from it, add butter and stir until melted
pour into cornmeal and salt mixture, stir until thick batter is formed
fold in corn kernels
let batter rise for about 15 minutes
heat up a pan or griddle with the oil
form the dough into 3-4 inch balls and pat down to 1/2 inch thickness
fry about 4 minutes on each side
take off heat and slice arepa in half width-wise, add cheese, put halves back together and back on heat until cheese is melted


i still don’t have a working computer at home, so here are a couple of photos to tide your curious eyes over.

view from a WWII look out post at Castillo San Cristobal

and me with my best friend, the ocean